The distribution and morphological characteristics of the intracortical VIP-positive cell: An immunohistochemical analysis

John H. Morrison*, P. J. Magistretti, R. Benoit, F. E. Bloom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Using a sensitive immunohistochemical procedure, we have undertaken a detailed morphological characterization of the vasoactive intestinal peptide-positive (VIP-positive) neuron in the cerebral cortex of the rat. VIP-positive neurons are present in all regions of cortex, and are usually strongly bipolar, possessing long, radially directed processes with very limited branching in the tangential plane. The most extensive dendritic branching occurs in layers I and deep IV-superficial V, and the density of axonal varicosities is highest in layers II-IV. In the visual cortex, approximately 50% of the labeled cell bodies are in layer II and III and 80% of the labeled cell bodies are contained in layers I-IV (superficial 600 μm of cortex). In order to determine the density and 3-dimensional distribution pattern of these cells, we prepared serial tangential sections through the rat visual cortex, mapped the distribution of all labeled cells in each section on transparent acetate sheets, and compressed these superimposed maps. This analysis demonstrated that: (1) approximately 1% of the cortical neurons are VIP-positive, (2) their distribution is fairly uniform and statistically random, (3) there are no large areas (i.e. with a diameter greater than 100 μm) that lack a VIP-positive cell, (4) on the average, there is one VIP-positive cell per column of 30 μm diameter, and (5) the average nearest neighbor distance on the compressed display is 15 μm. Given the morphological characteristics of VIP-positive cells, these data indicate that each VIP-containing cell is identified with a unique radial volume, which is generally between 15 and 60 μm in diameter, and overlaps with the contiguous domains of neighboring VIP-positive cells. These morphological data support the notion that VIP-containing neurons play an important functional role within radially oriented columns of cerebral cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-282
Number of pages14
JournalBrain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 6 1984
Externally publishedYes


  • bi-polar neuron
  • columnar organization
  • cortical organization
  • peptides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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